Skatter

D-Link DCS-932L Wireless Surveillance Camera (Review)

While there are many ways to keep an eye on your home, just about every option comes with a drawback. Professional security systems are too expensive and consumer-oriented options are often overly complicated. Skatter Tech reviewed the competing Avaak VueZone earlier this year, but there was one major concern: the company avoids labeling its product as a security solution.

Fortunately, D-Link has a relatively affordable option which hopes to play nice with an existing home WiFi network for easy installation. A remote web interface, apps for popular smart phones, and motion detection alerts make this surveillance camera seem quite attractive too. I just wish D-Link picks a shorter name next time: DCS-932L Wireless N Day/Night Home Network Camera.

Configuration Process

Getting the basics setup is incredibly easy taking just a few minutes. I powered up the DCS-932L with the included AC adapter and opted to use WiFi for connectivity. There is an Ethernet port on the back for wired connections too. While configuring old network cameras would generally entail typing an IP address into a browser, I was able to take advantage of WiFi Protected Setup (WPS) — commonly found on most modern routers. For those not familiar with this feature, pairing is easy as clicking a “push button” on your router and the security camera.

Once connected to the internet, the LED on the front of the security camera turns green. I noticed a new item appear in the Network Devices section of Windows 7. Clicking on that icon opened my default web browser for access to the configuration panel. The interface closely resembles a D-Link router page which is not too surprising. I found tons of options to customize network settings, enable Dynamic DNS for easy remote access, adjust image/video quality, configure motion detection, set up email notifications, backup to a FTP server, and much more.

Unfortunately, there is one major flaw. D-Link fails to offer any way to link the DCS-932L camera to its consumer friendly service labeled mydlink.com for monitoring and managing cameras without using the application found on the provided CD. It is quite unclear why there is no way to configure the this service through the local web configuration interface While using a CD is by no means difficult, the requirement seems quite primitive for a futuristic gizmo. Not to mention, configuring this security camera with a CD-free computer such as a Chromebook or MacBook Air is not possible.

Features

The DCS-932L is unlike several of the other security solutions I have come across due to its simplicity. This device is wire-free aside from needing a power supply, of course. While other solutions often requite an additional “base station,” this camera can connect directly to an existing WiFi router. D-Link makes it possible to stream a live video feed to a web browser on just about any computer or to a compatible smart phone. Users can adjust motion detection sensitivity and enable email alerts.

Another neat touch? The D-Link DCS-932L has built-in night vision support unlike the Logitech Alert system or the Avaak VueZone. I was not expecting much in terms of visibility in the dark, but the incredible quality blew me away. The IR LED sensors lit up my entire pitch-dark living room and there was barely any blurriness either.

I was somewhat relieved to learn that D-Link offers the option to continuously upload captured content to a FTP server for safekeeping. This can can prove valuable if an intruder attempts break or damage the camera. The only disappointment? The backup feature only supports images — no video.

Web Interface

While there is a router-like interface accessible through an IP address for monitoring one of these cameras, most users will likely choose to use the friendlier mydlink.com service. I was glad to find an uncluttered easy-to-use interface. However, there is one major issue: viewing a live camera feed through the website requires Java.

This makes mydlink incredibly slow to load and Java still freezes up even the best web browser momentarily while loading. I also noticed I was unable to view my camera feed on a Chromebook which lacks Java support. While I am not necessarily a fan of Adobe Flash, it was definitely the way to go since the plugin has a lighter footprint and works in more browsers.

Aside from those concerns, mydlink.com lets users monitor up to a total of 32 cameras through the web portal. There is a simple zoom slider, but D-Link oddly does not provide a way to pan around. Since the camera has a built-in microphone, it is easy to listen in too.

Mobile Apps

While the desktop web browser interface could use some work, the smart phone counterparts work quite well. After installing the app from the Android Market on a Sprint Nexus S, I could tune into a live feed even when I was away from my home on a mobile 3G or 4G network. I briefly tested the iOS counterpart and the interface was essentially identical.

The app makes it possible to snap a screen shot, view stats (resolution, frame rate, and bit rate), and switch to a full screen view. Although connecting to a camera sometimes took nearly 30 seconds, quality was generally acceptable. Being able to listen in is also a neat touch.

With that being said, there are two features I would like to see D-Link include in a future update: video capture and motion alerts. Users can currently only snap an image of a live video stream and adding support for recording clips would be helpful. In addition, D-Link should begin delivering push notifications for detected motion since both Android and iOS support the technology. While email alerts are available, I would rather see a native app provide instant feedback.

The Bottom Line

Even after using the Avaak VueZone video monitoring network and the Logitech Alert surveillance system, the D-Link DCS-932L is by far my favorite. VueZone requires a base station, comes with monthly fees, and users need to replace batteries from time-to-time. Though Logitech’s solution offers the best video quality, the base price is incredibly expensive and there are additional charges for using mobile apps. D-Link’s camera is the only solution with night vision technology, no monthly fees, an affordable price tag, and packed with incredibly geeky features.

The D-Link DCS-932L retails for just $99 and works great for in-door monitoring of any home. Being easy-to-setup adds plenty of value for those who consider themselves a bit technologically inept too. While I would like to see features such as support for saving video triggered by motion detection, this security camera still provides plenty of value. D-Link can also introduce new features through firmware updates and new versions of mobile apps too. If you are looking for an affordable security system for your home with a light footprint, this device is definitely worth considering.

Link: D-Link DCS-932L